Sunday, April 22, 2018

Annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 2)

In part 1 of this post about my visit to Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon, CA I showed you the plantings in the front of the nursery as well as the retail sales area. In part 2 we're going inside the greenhouse that is home to the Poots' personal collection of succulents. Some of the plants are also used as stock plants for propagation.

When you think of "personal collection" you may think of a few hundred plants. Not so here. While I have no idea how many individual plants there are—I'm not even sure the Poots know—there are many thousands, maybe more than 10,000. The greenhouse is absolutely packed with plants. At least half of them are cactus, the rest euphorbias, caudiciforms, and succulents like agaves, aloes and haworthias. There are some fairly common plants, too, but many are true collector's items.

Let's go poke around!

The cactus with reddish "hats" are Melocactus, often called Turk's hat cactus

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 1)

What does it take start a tradition? If visiting the same place at the same time two years in a row counts, then I have a new tradition: an annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon. Many of you may have no clue where Ripon is (here's a map) but if you've ever taken Highway 120 East to Yosemite National Park, then you've driven right by Poot's. It's located in the middle of the fields between Manteca and Escalon. Just look for the signs:


The nursery was started by Bill and Roelyn Poot 30+ years ago. It's still a family business, with son Brian managing the daily operations and Bill and Roelyn playing a hands-on role in propagation and sales. We were fortunate get a private tour of the private greenhouse which is off-limits to the public. It houses the Poots' huge collection of succulents, many of which are used for propagation. I'll have photos of the greenhouse in part 2 of this post. 

Greenhouse in the back, demonstration garden in the front. The koi pond is in front of the all the cactus.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hail the size of...

Occasionally you read about hailstones large enough to do serious damage. If they can break glass, I shudder to think what they would do to plants?!

The hail we had the other day was nothing compared to the grapefruit-sized hailstones that fell on Nebraska in 2003, but it came down fast and furious for a few minutes and made a surprisingly loud racket. Here are the three short videos I recorded from the front porch:

Monday, April 16, 2018

When a neighbor gives you free reign of her front yard

In my last post I showed you landscape designer Troy McGregor's personal garden in Martinez, CA. With permission from a neighbor across the street, Troy has planted a variety of Australian shrubs in her front yard. What an opportunity, not only to give your neighbor something attractive to look at, but also to trial plants you wouldn't have room for on your own property!

Up against the house, the existing plantings—lemons, pelargoniums, and the like—remain. They look like they've been here for decades. In fact, they give the house a fairy-tale quality, as if some 1950s version of Sleeping Beauty lives here.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Troy's garden: what does a landscape designer do with his own space?

When we remodeled our house years ago, our contractor told us that his wife always complained about the half-finished projects in their own house—he just didn't have the energy to finish them after long days at work. In a similar vein, I recently read an article about famous chefs eating fast food on their days off because they didn't have it in them to whip up fancy meals when they didn't have to.

These thoughts were on my mind as I went to visit my friend Troy McGregor a few weeks ago to pick up some plants he had for me.

For years, Troy was the nursery manager at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Under his guidance, what used to be a small corner with a limited selection of plants became a premier destination nursery for succulents, Australian and South African natives, and other drought-tolerant plants.

Troy has since moved on to run his own landscape design and installation company, Gondwana Flora. Since he spends his days creating beautiful outdoor spaces for his clients, would his own garden be a patchwork of unfinished ideas or, worse, just a tangle of weeds?

As it turns out, there was no need for me to wonder or worry. While there was a project in progress when I visited (a redo of a section of backyard), the rest was ready for primetime.

Troy and his wife Vicki live at the end of their street, and there's no question which house is theirs: The landscaping in front is a lush and visually complex tapestry of texture and color. And like every plants(wo)man worth their salt, Troy has a dog. Heck, he has a cat, too! That guy's got all the bases covered!

Nothing gets past Patterson. Plant thieves don't stand a chance!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Rain makes succulents shine

Rain is always welcome in our garden, especially this winter when it's been quite sporadic. What I dread are violent rainstorms with howling winds because they can wreak havoc on tender plants. However, the rain we had yesterday and into today was the opposite: soft and gentle. Just what plants and I like.

Another upside of the rain: It makes succulents glisten like precious jewels. Here are some photos from last evening and this morning:

Aloe vaombe

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Waterwise Botanicals: succulent heaven (part 2 of 2)

I hope part 1 of my post about Waterwise Botanicals in San Diego's North County didn't overwhelm you. If it did, buckle up because you're about to be overwhelmed some more.

As I mentioned earlier, Waterwise Botanicals is a 20-acre nursery that specializes in succulents but also carries other drought-tolerant plants. Their selection is huge, and their prices are reasonable. I'd rate it a must-see stop on any San Diego County nursery tour, especially for people from Northern California and other corners of the world where that kind of nursery simply doesn't exist. (If you're a collector who already has all the common stuff you may have to look a little harder, but you never know you'll find.)

Part 1 focused on the retail area near the entrance. Part 2 covers the rest of the operation, including the demonstration garden and the growing grounds. It's OK to be jealous of the climate and all the plants they can grow in San Diego; I certainly went home wishing I didn't have to worry about freezes ever again.

The demonstration plantings (what they call the Desert Garden on the nursery map) aren't large but there are some nice specimens to admire.


Tree aloe (Aloidendron barberae)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Waterwise Botanicals: succulent heaven (part 1 of 2)

The main reason for my recent trip to San Diego was to attend the 2018 Super Succulent Celebration, two days jam-packed with succulent-themed talks, workshops and buying opportunities. The event was hosted by Waterwise Botanicals, a much-loved nursery in Bonsall in northern San Diego County. Founded and still run by renowned plantsman Tom Jesch, Waterwise Botanicals is now part of Altman Plants, the largest succulent grower in the U.S.

I had never been to Waterwise Botanicals before, but I'd heard and read so much about it that I thought I knew what to expect. Wrong. My frame of reference are nurseries with two or maybe three acres of growing grounds and retail space. Waterwise has 20 acres! That's a lot of plants to look at! And even though Waterwise also sells perennials, including roses, most of their inventory is succulents. Hundreds and hundreds—if not thousands—of species in everything from 2-inch pots to 24-inch boxes.


I literally spent hours walking around the nursery grounds taking pictures. I tried to edit my photo loot as much as possible, but there are so many images I want to show you that I'm breaking this post down into two parts. This part focuses on the retail area near the entrance, including the Mini Succulents Shade House. The map below will give you a better idea of how the nursery is laid out.

Friday, March 30, 2018

My first drive-through nursery experience: Evergreen Nursery in El Cajon, CA

Last weekend I spent a whirlwind 48 hours in San Diego. My first stop on Friday morning was Evergreen Nursery, a wholesale grower open to the public. The company has three locations: San Diego proper, Oceanside, and El Cajon. The El Cajon location was holding an Aloe ortholopha for me, so that's where I was headed.

Evergreen Nursery is right off Interstate 8 northeast of town. Surrounded by hillsides, green at this time of year, the rural location is beautiful.


What makes Evergreen Nursery so special is that it's a drive-through nursery. That was definitely a first for me. This is how the company explains the "Evergreen System:"
Just follow the Evergreen 3 step system: 
1. Drive through or park and shop (you may load directly into your car)
2. Ask Questions
3. Pay at the Checkout Booth
Evergreen's pricing system is designed for your ease and convenience. Plants are priced by the container size. The plants are color coded (the color code is on the map). While driving, the customer can look at a field of one gallon shrubs and easily see the least expensive (yellow card) varieties and read the plant's description. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

48-hour San Diego succulent madness

I know I do crazy things now and then. Last weekend ranks right up there. I flew to San Diego from Sacramento early on Friday morning (flight time is only 1:20 hr), went to the Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals; toured one of the most beautiful private succulent gardens I've ever seen; explored Rancho Soledad Nursery, the source of many popular agaves like 'Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame'; met up with some fellow succulent fanatics at the Succulent Cafe; and checked out Jeff Moore's nursery Solana Succulents. I arrived back home at midnight on Saturday. 48 hours of total succulent madness!

I took over 900 photos, so it'll take me a while to go through them all. Here are a few collages to give you an idea of what I saw.

My very first stop was at Evergreen Nursery in El Cajon, east of San Diego. They were holding a hard-to-find Aloe ortholopha for me. Evergreen Nursery is a wholesale-but-open-to-the-public nursery with three locations in the San Diego area. Their prices are extremely reasonable (my 5-gallon aloe was $24.50). But the most interesting thing about Evergreen: It's a drive-through nursery. You drive through the entire nursery (some 30 acres) in your own car, load up the plants you want, and on the way out you stop at a kiosk where they tally up your purchases. I'd never experienced anything like it before.

Evergreen Nursery, El Cajon, CA